As anyone who’s read my blog likely knows, I’m writing a fantasy series. Okay, actually, kinda sorta, three series (Kovenlore Chronicles, Pannulus Mysteries, and Thornwillow Tales), but I’m focusing on one right now or nothing will ever be published. That I’ve gotten this far, and that I’ve been so prolific, I attribute in part to Scrivener.
When I switched to Scrivener in 2013 it was because I could see its versatility and potential. I could see ways it could make me more productive.
Keep in mind, I didn’t start any of those series until 2016.
Right at first, and partly in the interest of learning, I used it like any other word processing program (I’d previously used Word). Basically, I used it to write chapters and that was it. I did, though, love how easy it was to rename chapters and move them around within the same project. From there, though, it was an evolution as I…
- Started including visual references like maps.
- Imported some Word reference documents.
- One by one, scrapped the imported documents and recreated them in Scrivener so I could more easily amend them.
- Created new reference documents simply because it was so easy to transfer them between projects.
And right there, that last point, is where everything changed, triggered when I prepared to write the sequel to Trust in the Forgotten in late 2016.
*I no longer have Word on my computer. After they ceased to support my old version I switched to Pages for non creative writing. For more about helpful Scrivener editing tools check this post.
No matter the program used, much of what I’m sharing here might help you. None of this is genius insight. Believe me, it took far too long to figure-out some of these ideas.
This is an extremely edited overview of what you can do.
In Scrivener you create projects, typically a novel. Thus, currently, the file I have open is Wrath of Purpose, Book7. I do, though, have a project exclusively for short stories and another for novellas. All my novelettes are linked to Stealing Light so I have them included with that novel for now.
As I mentioned, it’s easy to move files within a Scrivener program. You can also create folders, change icons, and label files with a color coding. Labeling is handy in a novel where you have multiple POVs. Additionally, you can stitch a character’s chapters together for editing purposes (to do it, all you have to do is select those files).
I also love the visual aspect. Folders and files are visible on the left edge of the screen in what’s called the Binder. You can hide it if you want to and change icon appearance.
That also means if I scrap chapters I can keep those old files right there in the original project for future reference or use. That also applies to old outlines, revision maps, etc..
So, returning to moving files between projects…
I said it was easy? You simply drag and drop as many files as you want. What that meant initially was if I created a reference document in Book4 I could take it with me when I moved to Book5, or to an earlier novel when I reopened it.
That opened me up to bigger possibilities.
First, I started dating reference files so I’d know there was an updated version I needed to transfer. I can glance at the metadata for each file, but by dating the file in the Binder I can see with a quick scan which files need transferred.
Once moved, I delete the old version.
This even holds true for references across series. Some of those in Carrdia don’t apply to the stories in Pannulus, like the Carrdia history or those linked to specific characters, locations, or threads. On the other hand, the same basic magic applies to all of Ontyre. Too, both Carrdia and Pannulus share an ancient past where they both interacted with the Old Empire and the Kron wizards.
Dating and migrating files led to creating files specifically for that reason once Kovenlore Chronicles grew to multiple books.
Thus, I have files like my vital Carrdia Book Changes where I quickly jot notes about any of the other books in the series. It’s a lifesaver and is always available no matter which project I’m in. That’s the advantage of writing the entire series first.
For instance, I’m working on Book7. There’ve been times when I realized how great it would’ve been to foreshadow a moment all the way back in Book1. Simple. Take a minute to type the change I want to make and keep working. Later, I’ll transfer that file when I edit and there it’ll be.
This has grown to include the overviews for the series or specific characters. When working on any one project it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture. Too, other files aid tracking a character’s arc over multiple books. I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time on all this, but even a few notes help.
There it is. I hope it sounds as easy as it really is. The opposite is having to open and close, open and close files. I will note that I keep some written notes and diagrams on paper. Sometimes that’s handy. Other times, I keep both. Maybe this will enable you to come up with your own ideas.